I am perplexed. I’ve been reading works by several other recently successful new authors and I’m noticing a trend. Their stories are technically flawed yet they are demonstrating surprising levels of interest and enthusiasm from their readers. All the books and articles I read about what constitutes good writing are fairly clear and consistent in their message. Show the reader, don’t tell them; avoid excessive hyperbole; etc.
The stories I’m reading fly in the face of those Good Writing Maxims. I won’t name names because I’m truly happy that these authors have landed publishing deals. I’m even happier for them that their books are doing well. Ultimately that’s what makes a good book: people enjoy it and show that support with their pocketbooks.
In my own effort to write and refine Ohlen’s Arrow — and ultimately my goal to get it published — I have spent a great deal of effort and time following the rules of what constitutes good writing. After reading other works, I’ve also gone back and made sure my characters were interesting. Something can be technically flawless but if it’s not interesting, who cares?
Consider a musical analogy: Credence Clearwater Revival. They were, and still are, a hugely popular band yet their musical chops are rudimentary at best.
As a reader, can you overlook technically flawed writing if the characters and situations are unusual and interesting? Or can that get in the way, preventing it from being what would otherwise be a good book?
My book, Ohlen’s Arrow, is now dwelling in a state of revision. I wrote the first draft and sent it out to several beta readers for feedback. After receiving that feedback, I spent two weeks revising the book and another week proofreading it.
The problem is that my brain won’t let it stay where it is. I keep coming up with ideas for plot expansion. Part of this results from realizing I’ve neglected certain foreshadowing opportunities within the book as well as links to the two books I have planned as sequels in what will probably turn into a trilogy.
I also realize that I mention certain plot elements within the story but don’t expand on them as much as I could. I’m sure sharp readers will finish the book and say, “Hey, what about that dagger you mentioned in chapter 3?” or “Why are the cru’gan so tribal and not more cooperative?”
Questions from readers like this are to a certain extent unavoidable. I can’t answer every possible question; it’s not feasible, and I don’t think the book would be very interesting if I did. Everyone needs a little mystery left over once the last page has been turned.
The challenge as an author is knowing when to stop. At what point do I allow the book to exist as it stands? When do I determine I’ve done enough?
If Ohlen’s Arrow becomes a New York Times best seller and gets a three-movie treatment from Peter Jackson, no doubt I’d walk away from the bank after cashing my royalty checks still harboring thoughts that it could use just a little more work.